For the world premiere of Basil Kreimendahl’s hilarious and tenderhearted play Sidewinders (directed by M. Graham Smith), the Cutting Ball Theater in San Francisco has flipped its performance space, arranging the stands of chairs so the stage is deeper than it is wide. Papier mache clouds hang from the ceiling, casting shadows on the clouds painted on the walls, creating an illusion of depth (lighting design by Heather Basarab). The stage seems to open up in front of us on three sides. The set, designed by Michael Locher, is dotted with sandy colored, flat-topped stumps, like desert mesas in miniature.
It seems right, in this setting, to encounter two fools: Dakota, a swaggering gunslinger (played by Sara Moore), and Bailey, an elegant soldier (played by DavEnd). Their train has run out of track, and they are stranded, as Dakota says, “on the Edge of Everything.” Profoundly disoriented, they do not know where they are, where they were before, nor who they were before. Their dilemma is both existential and venereal. Bailey does not know what Bailey is, what parts Bailey has, or whom Bailey should fool around with, and if Dakota knows, the gunslinger isn’t sharing. Bailey’s parts are so mysterious that they can only be named by singing nonsense phrases. Whether it is the vastness around them that spurs Bailey’s self-examination, or whether Bailey has always been questing to make sense of gender and sexuality, we can’t know. But the mystery of identity seems to be drawing Bailey further into the unknown borderlands. “We could go…that way,” says the soldier, wide-eyed, with an emphatic hair-toss in the direction of the frontier.